Health & Fitness

Will Pacific Crest Trail teen hiker finish her solo trip?

Laina Rose of Redding takes a snack break near Sierra City in mid-June. Now 18, she hopes to finish her trek next year.
Laina Rose of Redding takes a snack break near Sierra City in mid-June. Now 18, she hopes to finish her trek next year. Sacramento Bee file

Laina Rose had to put the book down. After reading a few chapters, she found the story about a young woman hiking hundreds of miles alone too intimidating.

Her older sister had given her “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail,” a memoir by Cheryl Strayed, for her 17th birthday, right after Rose decided she wanted to walk from Mexico to Canada on the PCT.

She just didn’t know when she would make the hike. Maybe in her early 20s, she thought.

But it would be less than a year later that Rose would be driving with her mother from their Redding home to the Mexican border to start her journey.

Last April, Rose, now 18, set out to hike the PCT almost entirely by herself.

Part of her anticipated 2,650-mile journey was featured in The Bee in July. It told of her too-close-of-a-call dehydration episode in the Mojave Desert, post-holing through the Sierra Nevada snow, and the fears that came with being a teenage girl hiking alone in the wilderness.

She had traveled more than 1,500 miles when she came down with the flu and was forced to leave the trail. The delay meant she wouldn’t have time to reach Canada before her September deadline and the snowy weather began.

Instead, she traded in her 30-pound green backpack for a gray book bag (on which the straps broke and she repaired it with carabiners) and began classes at Shasta College in Redding a semester earlier than she expected.

With the film version of “Wild,” starring Reese Witherspoon as Strayed, hitting Sacramento theaters Friday, The Bee checked in with Rose to see if she was still planning to resume her journey.

Rose said she intends to finish her trek through Northern California, Oregon and Washington this summer. A PCT map, calendar and poster hang on her home bedroom wall and serve as reminders and motivators. She’s now figuring out the timing and how it would work with her school schedule.

On a recent day, she was busy preparing for her math, history and business exams, but she said she’s going to resume reading “Wild” as soon as she gets the free time.

“I’d really like to finish it now because it was freaking me out before I hit the trail,” Rose said. “But now that I have hiked (part of) it, I think I can appreciate her humor since we had similar things happen.”

The author’s descriptions of the loneliness, the fear and the blisters resonated with her, Rose said. Her “trail name” – a moniker given to her by other PCT travelers – was Sandals, because at one point her feet had become too blistered to wear boots.

Rose said she is looking forward to seeing the film adaptation of “Wild,” but plans on finishing the book first.

“I’m really hoping they do a good job of making it look like she is actually on the trail,” Rose said of the movie. “There’s a whole trail culture, like meeting the other hikers and camping out, and I’m hoping they have that in the film.”

Strayed’s book has been praised for featuring a strong, independently minded woman embarking on an adventure of her choosing. Rose said she didn’t expect the story of her journey to have a similar impact. But a few weeks ago, a girl wanting to hike part of the PCT by herself messaged Rose on Facebook, asking for tips. Rose has yet to respond; she’s still searching for the right words

“It was pretty weird,” Rose said of looking back on her trip. “I just don’t feel like it was that big of a deal or I would have an expert opinion on it.”

But neither did Strayed. And her 1,100-mile endeavor, which she embarked on with almost no trail experience, has become a powerful tale of perseverance and self-discovery for many readers, as well as a New York Times best-seller after its 2012 release.

“I would hope that my story would be the same,” Rose said, encouraging women and young people to do it.

Editor’s note: The headline has been changed to correctly identify the name of the trail.

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